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Nursing (TR): Purpose of Nursing Papers

What is the purpose of nursing papers?

The purpose of the nursing paper is to give the student experience in solving nursing problems using evidence-based practice (EBP).  The paper is the written proof that the student understands the EBP process. The student must apply skills in the following areas:

  • Identifying a nursing problem
  • Selecting appropriate resources
  • Communicating in own words the “gist’ of the resources
  • Presenting a solution to the nursing problem by suggesting appropriate nursing interventions
  • Using APA format and style to communicate the process

Learning the terminology

A nursing problem is one that can be solved by nurses, not doctors, therapists, or even the patients themselves.  These solutions are referred to as nursing interventions and are usually presented in the care plan.  The appropriate intervention is unique for each patient.  It is the nurse's responsibility to customize the care plan for each patient.

Evidence based practice (EBP) involves using evidence derived from appropriate scientific experiments and applying it to nursing practice.

Before nurses do anything to or for patients, they must find evidence that it works.  While evidence may be derived from personal experience, for the purposes of nursing school, evidence will come primarily from empirical (original) research. You will be looking for articles that feature experiments done by nurses.

You must read the empirical research for yourself--not someone else's interpretation of that research. 

To ensure quality, the empirical research should be peer reviewed and less than 5 years old.

The best place to find peer reviewed EBP is through the library databases, where you can filter by peer reviewed, among other factors. The CINAHL database provides the most filter options and is the most user friendly. Be sure to include all relevant filters for your search, but not too many or you will eliminate many relevant articles.

What counts as evidence:

  • Original research: "We counted...," "We studied...," "We surveyed..."
  • (Do not be misled by articles where the authors conducted a literature search. In those articles, the authors will say that their methods included a search of databases and what keywords they used..)

What does not count as evidence:

  • Commentary: "I think...," "I believe...," "I feel..."
  • Continuing Education: "Here is what all nurses need to know..."
  • Literature Review: "Here is what other people have researched..."

While other articles may provide quality background information or explanation of the topic that may be useful in your paper, they are not evidence.

How to use empirical research in evidence based research

Once you have found an empirical study, figure out what it means for nursing.  How can nurses provide better care because of the evidence presented in the study? There should be some kind of problem that the researchers attempted to solve. Your paper will present the information like this:

Introduction: What is the problem?

Body: How did the researchers try to solve the problem?

Conclusion: How can nurses solve the problem?

An empirical study follows the scientific method to find a solution to a question or problem.

How to tell if the article is an empirical study:

1. Look for headings such as: Objective/Aim, Method/Methodology, Data/Results, Discussion, Conclusion

2. Read the abstract. What did the authors DO? (The authors should have done something, not just read other articles.)


Even though an article may appear in a peer reviewed journal, it is not peer reviewed unless it is an actual empirical study.  Articles that appear in a peer reviewed journal, but are not peer reviewed, include: letters to the editor, commentary, continuing education, overviews.

In a literature review, the author reads empirical studies by other researchers, summarizes them and discusses an intervention based on those studies.  You will read about various databases like CINAHL, MedLine, PubMed, Scopus, LILACS, among others. 

Most empirical studies have a literature review section at the beginning in order to explain how the study will be different or to explain the background of research in the area.

As the actual research was not done by the authors of the article, you cannot use the information presented because it is not directly from the people who conducted that research.

APA format refers to what the paper looks like, i.e. the margins, font, spacing, etc. It also refers to how you write your references page and how you refer to your sources within the paper.

APA style refers to what you actually say in your paper. It guides how you phrase your sentences and how you explain your ideas.

QUOTE means word-for-word what someone else said.  When you use 3 or more words directly from a source, that is a quote, and the words MUST be within quotation marks, and the in-text citation must include a page number.

Ex: "nursing students dislike writing papers" (Toups, 2019, p. 35)

CITE means whose idea it was.  Even when you put ideas into your own words (paraphrase), you must still give credit to the person whose ideas they are (cite).

Ex. Nursing students prefer hands-on work as opposed to papers (Toups, 2019).

Do not substitute each word in a sentence with a synonym and think you have paraphrased.